Westwood takes the lead as DeChambeau produces stunning 370-yard drive

By Sports Desk March 06, 2021

Lee Westwood surged into the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational ahead of Bryson DeChambeau, who stole the show with a monstrous 370-yard drive on the sixth.

English 47-year-old Westwood shot a seven-under 65 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead at 11 under heading into the final day, sitting ahead of DeChambeau (68) and previous leader Corey Conners (71), who are tied for second.

Keegan Bradley shot a round-best eight-under 64 with his 59th career bogey-free round to move into equal fourth alongside Jordan Spieth (68) at nine under.

Westwood made his move with five birdies on the front nine on Saturday. He also hit an eagle on the 16th and a birdie on the challenging 18th..

"The first time I played here I felt 'this was good'," said Westwood, who has plenty of experience playing at Bay Hill.

"I like the way it makes you shape the ball into some of the fairways. It suits my game. I'm not the longest through the air anymore so it helps when I can use a lot of the fairway."

DeChambeau, who was the Invitational runner-up in 2018, had the crowds roaring on the 590-yard dog leg par-five sixth hole when he ambitiously succeeded in driving to clear the water in a 370-yard carry.

The 2020 U.S. Open champion shot a 68, including six birdies, but his monster drive was all the talk, having teased on social media that he would attempt it in the lead-up.

"I've never had so many people cheering me on to do something pretty cool," the American said.

"To have that opportunity and execute it was pretty special. Hopefully it's something I can do tomorrow again.

"I was definitely nervous. I caught it pretty solid. I didn't know how else to react."

Overnight leader Conners let slip his dominant position but remains in the hunt after two bogeys and three birdies for the round.

Early leader and 2018 Invitational winner Rory McIlroy slipped to equal seventh after an even-par round.

Doug Ghim drew level with McIlroy after an outstanding seven-under 65, with the duo joined at seven under by Jazz Janewattananond (69) and Richy Werenski (69).

Janewattananond made a hole-in-one at the 14th, while Spieth also produced an ace in the third round – his coming at the second.

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    Team Europe face an uphill battle trying to retain their crown at Whistling Straits, where hosts USA hold a commanding 6-2 advantage – the biggest opening-day lead at the Ryder Cup since 1975.

    Europe struggled for answers as Team USA starred in the morning foursomes and afternoon four-balls, with four-time major champion Rory McIlroy losing both his matches and subsequently dropped for Saturday's foursomes.

    While the start of Europe's defence did not go according to plan, Harrington highlighted the importance of Jon Rahm-Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland-Tommy Fleetwood halving their respective matchups against Scottie Scheffler-Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas-Patrick Cantlay late in the day.

    "No doubt it was a tough day," Harrington told reporters. "Clearly not what you wanted, 6-2. There's obviously still 20 points to play for. We've only just played for about 25 per cent at this stage. It isn't a good start, but there's still a lot to play for.

    "My team played well today. You know, just a few times, the momentum, the odd putt didn't go in, and you need a bit of momentum. Things didn't go against us.

    "But hopefully, I just think the last couple of matches there, when it was really, really tight, the boys came through, and it certainly felt like we couldn't have afforded -- those two halves at the very end were crucial for us, Tyrrell with the birdie on the last, very, very important in those situations.

    "As much as we would have liked to have gotten wins on the board, we couldn't afford -- we didn't feel like we could afford to have lost those matches. Maybe a little bit of momentum swing there, and we feel good about that. And coming out tomorrow, obviously we need a big day."

    Harrington added: "We just didn't hole the putts today. You know, you hole a few putts at the right time, you do create the momentum to move on.

    "So it's a sort of Catch 22. Obviously the US played well and obviously they holed the right putts at the right time and fair play to them. We're certainly not second-guessing the way they played. We would like to hole a few more putts ourselves tomorrow and create a little bit more good feeling and vibes for ourselves."

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    American counterpart and USA skipper Steve Stricker added: "It's a great start. We are very happy with the start. But my message to the guys before I left is tomorrow is a new day. You know, let's just go out tomorrow and try to win that first session again in the morning and pretend today never happened, and let's keep our foot down and continue to play the golf that we know we can play.

    "That's what we're trying to do and not try to get complacent with anything. You know, we've had some things that came up and bit us in the rear in other Ryder Cups, so these guys know that, and they are focused on tomorrow and coming out strong again tomorrow."

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    DeChambeau teamed up with Ryder Cup rookie Scottie Scheffler in the four-ball, halving their matchup against world number one Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

    Powerhouse DeChambeau hit an astonishing 417-yard drive on the 581-yard par-five fifth hole, setting up an eagle to put himself and Scheffler one up in their four-ball contest with Rahm and Hatton.

    Reflecting on the team's red-hot start, DeChambeau told reporters: "Proud of the team. Super proud.

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    On DeChambeau's fifth-hole bomb, Scheffler added: "That was probably the most excited he's ever been on a golf course was on number five. That wind, we had it on one of our practice days, and we figured out what he needed to do, so to have an opportunity to do that in competition was amazing. I was jacked up for him as well.

    "I think he pushed it a little bit, but he smashed it. So thankfully he pushed it just a touch. If he pulls that ball at all, it's weird, there are two towers behind the green, I can't even describe to you - they are like 250 or 200 yards right of where I'm trying to hit my drive, and it's crazy for him to be able to commit to that shot.

    "I know he's very happy to make a three as well; if he made a five, he said he was probably going to go home. It was great. That was a good spark for us and good momentum for the rest of the day."

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    "He's already a leader," Harrington said of McIlroy prior to the pairings being released. "You saw him out there after a tough day. He was out following those matches and supporting his team. He is very much a leader amongst his peers.

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